Op-Ed: Wow! The Pope Exonerated Us!
I tend to get my latest news from the American late-night talk show monologues. Last week, the Tonight Show’s Jay Leno cracked, "In a new book, the Pope exonerates the Jews for the death of Jesus. Well, not a moment too soon. He really nipped that one in the bud."
Jon Stewart similarly expressed mock excitement when reporting the story on The Daily Show. “YES! NOT GUILTY! The Jews are not guilty! Jews, congratulations, we’re off the hook on this one!”
But the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the news coming from the Vatican as “an important and historic moment”. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wrote to the pontiff, "I commend you for rejecting in your new book the false claim that was used as a basis for the hatred of Jews for hundreds of years."
All that is well and good, but isn’t this a case of ‘too little, too late’? I’ve heard of late apologies before, but centuries late? Does any Jewish person really feel any better about the Holy See now?
Moving away from the Pope to the total opposite side of the spectrum, we have film and television actor, Charlie Sheen. Sheen has had his share of successes on the big screen (dramas like Platoon and Wall Street and more comedic films such as Major League and the Hot Shots! films) and the small screen (Spin City and Two and a Half Men). Sheen also comes from an acting family; his father Martin Sheen starred in The West Wing and his brother Emilio Estevez had a few box office hits (The Breakfast Club and those Mighty Ducks movies).
Charlie Sheen was the highest paid actor on television, earning US$1.8 million per episode of Two and a Half Men. But Sheen's personal life has also made headlines, including reports about marital problems, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as allegations of domestic violence.
Sheen’s problems forced CBS to announce that Two and a Half Men would go on hiatus, but the network subsequently announced that the current season, underway and due to shoot its last four episodes, had been canceled after Sheen made disparaging comments about his boss, series creator and lead writer Chuck Lorre, on the February 24th edition of a radio broadcast hosted by Alex Jones.
Sheen was accused of anti-Semitism for referring to Lorre by his Hebrew name, Chaim Levine. In an interview with TMZ, Sheen denied being anti-Semitic, saying, "I wanted to address the man, not the TV persona. So you're telling me, anytime someone calls me Carlos Estevez (Sheen’s birth name), I can claim they are anti-Latino?”
In March, Sheen went on Access Hollywood Live and said that because his mother is Jewish, he is also Jewish and therefore not anti-Semitic.
When the reporter reminded Sheen, “You’re getting accused of anti-Semitic remarks -- you might want to say, ‘By the way, I’m Jewish!' ”Sheen responded, “I know, I know -- stupid me. I just got caught sleeping, caught napping, which is rare for me. Anywho ... But I’m proud of it. There you have it."
So, Charlie Sheen temporarily ‘forgot’ he’s Jewish? I find it ironic that he referred to Chuck Lorrie as ‘Chaim’ Levine because Sheen is also a ‘Chuck’ (or Charles), so couldn’t his Hebrew name (if he has one or would be given one) also be ‘Chaim’? We can probably excuse Sheen for most of his outrageous comments because he may be far from being of sound mind. This is the same guy who told a TV interviewer, "I am on a drug; it's called Charlie Sheen!"
Sheen was ultimately fired by Warner Brothers Television from his show ‘Two and a Half Men’. He intends to sue. Maybe he should take this time off to think about what he has said and done lately. Many pundits have found it ironic that none of those close to Sheen, not his father, brother, or TV co-stars, have said anything publicly in support of him, and seem to be distancing themselves from the story.
People in the public eye often say things they regret, but try to cover their tracks by apologizing quickly. The Pope may be quite sincere in exonerating the Jews for blame for Jesus’ death, but too many have suffered for centuries before, making his statement appear as nothing more than lip service in the 21st century. Would it have been better if he had said nothing at all? Should he have remained silent as his predecessors did? Is the adage, ‘better late than never’ applicable here, or is it much too late to carry any real significance?
Charlie Sheen never really apologized to Chuck Lorrie, and probably never will. At best, he offered a defense for not being an anti-Semite, as he claims that he is a member of the tribe. But do we Jews really want Charlie Sheen in our club?
In a perfect world, maybe Pope Benedict would go to a confessional broadcast world-wide on TV and the internet and openly admit the wrongs of the Popes vis-a-vis the Jews.
And in a more unlikely scenario, maybe Chuck ‘Chaim’ Lorrie and ‘Charlie ‘Chaim’ Sheen end up sitting next to each other at a Yom Kippur service in a synagogue in Hollywood. Maybe during the Rabbi’s sermon, Sheen leans over to Lorrie and whispers a heartfelt apology.
And that’s when a new sitcom is born: ‘Two and a Half Jews’.